Paycheck Chronicles

The Right Veteran In-State Tuition Info

You know that big headline White House announcement that’s been posted all over the internet the last few days?  About how veterans and their families will now be able to get in-state tuition.  This thing has me seething, because almost every single story is inaccurate, plus it is OLD NEWS.

The changes being promoted in conjunction with Veterans Day are important, but they’re not what the headlines say.  The headlines about this change have been almost universally wrong since it became news in August 2014.

This article only talks about the recently publicized “changes.”  There are many other federal and state laws that apply to these situations.

It Does Not Apply To All Veterans

This change applies only to veterans using VA educational benefits (either the Montgomery GI Bill or the Post 9/11 GI Bill), and their dependents using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits.

The term of the exemption is 36 months from the date that the veteran left military service.

Individual state law may provide for similar concessions for a longer period of time, but the federal law says 36 months.

It Isn’t A Free Pass To In-State Tuition

The change specifically applies to the “residency requirement” portion of a school’s in-state tuition guidelines.  It requires schools to waive the residency requirement,

“to require a covered individual to demonstrate an intent, by means other than satisfying a physical presence requirement, to eventually establish residency in that state or to meet requirements unrelated to residency in order to be eligible for the in-state tuition rate. “

What this means is that the other requirements for in-state tuition must be met.  For example, the student may be required to get a driver’s license in that state.  If they work, they would be required to pay state taxes to the state in which they are living.

Many states already offer similar programs that make it easier for veterans to attain in-state status, and those states can continue to be more generous than the federal law requires.

It Does Not Apply To Active Duty Families

Active duty families have generous in-state tuition benefits, and this change wouldn’t help them even if it did apply.  But it doesn’t.  It only applies to veterans, and those using the same veteran’s benefits, within the first 36 months of leaving the military.

There is a federal law that applies to active duty families, this just isn’t it.  Additionally, numerous states make generous allowances to their in-state policies for military families.

It Isn’t 100% Implemented Yet

While the deadline for implementing this change was 1 July 2015, the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the authority to give individual schools a waiver until 1 January 2016.  This was necessary because many of these schools don’t make their own decisions, but are subject to the laws passed by their state legislatures.  In cases where the state legislative schedule prevented the states from dealing with this issue before the 1 July 2015 deadline, the Secretary can make a temporary exception.

This is a fabulous change that will allow transitioning veterans to move on with their post-military life without having to wait to meet the physical presence test for in-state tuition.  However, it is not what the omni-present “In-State Tuition For U.S. Veterans, Families” headline implies, and it’s not actually current news.

The exact text of the changes can be found in the  Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014.  Specific references to in-state tuition can be found by using the CTRL-F search function to find references to “in-state.”

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